Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during a meeting with a group pf people from provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan and South Khorasan in Tehran on September 11, 2023

Khamenei Meets Cherrypicked Baluchis In Bid To Calm Tensions

Monday, 09/11/2023

Iran’s Supreme Leader met a group of Baluch people Monday in a bid to pacify the community which has been holding protests since a government massacre last September.

The meeting in Tehran, which had been advertised by state media for weeks, included people from Sistan-Baluchestan Province where most Baluchis live and its neighboring province of South Khorasan. Rumors circulated that khamenei's office offered money for people to attend. 

As Iranians are readying for rallies on the anniversary of last year’s protests, there are reports that the office of the Supreme Leader is especially worried about the protests among the Sunni population of the country, more than 10 million people who are mainly Baluch or Kurd.

Since earlier this month, regime-affiliated media had been reporting that Khamenei may meet with some of the families of the victims of Bloody Friday, the massacre that killed around 90 civilians in the wake of Mahsa Amini's death. Residents have been holding anti-regime demonstrations for the past 49 weeks unabated. Bloody Friday, the suppression of protests on September 30, 2022, saw citizens, including women and children lose their lives due to direct gunfire from military and security forces, with many succumbing to head and chest injuries. 

Protests in Zahedan In September 2022

The Sunni Friday Prayer Imam of Zahedan, Mowlavi Abdolhamid, persistently called for an investigation into the massacre and the prosecution of those responsible. However, to date, no one has been charged or tried in connection with the incident. The outspoken cleric, officially known as Sheikh Abdolhamdid Esmailzehi, is largely popular because of his willingness to challenge the absolute authority of Khamenei. Late last year, a hacktivist group leaked documents indicating that Khamenei is dismayed by Abdolhamid’s unrelenting criticism, and has ordered underlings to tarnish Abdolhamid’s reputation to diminish his influence. 

The advocacy group Haalvsh, which reports on issues and events in Sistan-Baluchestan province, said that people of provincial capital Zahedan have written slogans on the walls of the city against those meeting with Khamenei, noting that the attendees by no means represent the people of the province. Many were referred to as “disgraced" and traitors to the martyrs. An X (formerly twitter) campaign was also launched against the meeting, trending a hashtag translated as “No to meeting the dictator.” 

Khamenei’s speech during the meeting was predictably trite, with the aging ruler repeating his usual jargon, deflecting blame for all the failings of the regime onto the US and its allies, while at the same time claiming that Western powers are in decline with new regional and global powerhouses on the rise. “The arrogant power of America and some European countries has weakened and will become weaker,” he said. 

“Our information tells us that the American government has created a crisis group with the mission to search for the points which they think can be used to provoke a crisis in Iran. With contemplation and study, they have concluded that there are several crisis points in Iran: ethnic differences, religious differences, and the issue of gender and women, which should be provoked to create a crisis,” Khamenei claimed.

It was not clear if he was referring to a particular group or just repeating conspiracy theories about US supported groups and organizations.

“All people from different ethnicities and religion groups should join together. Since there is a clear direction, this unity is important," Iran's ruler added.

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